On June 13, just as COVID-19 restrictions reopened across Ontario ACER, the Association for Canadian Educational Resources, held its Annual General Meeting.
The virtual meeting was simulcast on YouTube to a Canada-wide audience of members, Canada Summer Jobs interns, scientists and agency collaborators.
Video keynotes from two ACER interns who found career jobs in the green economy were inspirational.
As an ACER intern in 2019, Tyler Orsulak, evolved his degree in Criminology to kickstart his career with City of Hamilton in Forestry By-Laws Enforcement, a newly created position. Knowledge of trees and waterways are key talents in his role to conduct inspections on construction sites. “The direct learning experiences and measurement protocols were instrumental to get my first job with the City,” says Tyler.
“As governments at every level change and new science informs policy shifts, ACER has adapted.” said Alice Casselman, Founder and President of ACER in her remarks. “ACER has attracted the next generation of scientists, and ACER has kept true to its values to collect data to contribute to global climate change research.”
In 2020 ACER navigated evolving pandemic and emergency measures which reduced staff and cut volunteers; saw opportunity in environmental policy which reconnected human wellbeing to that of nature; and reimagined program delivery to encompass both social distancing and digital connections. Insights and actions moved in tandem into projects with ACER’s non-profit agency and institutional stakeholder network.
Says Alice, “Together, with collaborators Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and City of Brampton, we pushed through against all odds to engage 71 Knightsbridge residents in Citizen Science climate action to field test ACER’s precedent-setting Project Crossroads urban reforestation tree labs”.
ACER conducted a pre- and post-planting mental wellbeing perception survey of volunteers in Knightsbridge, one of the worst COVID-impacted areas in Ontario. Relief from COVID-19 distress got A++ grades. “Everyone who came to the plantings, left with positive, joyful experiences and a greater sense of connection and community, and would highly recommend it to their family and friends,” reads the report.
In parallel to the experience of resident volunteers, COVID restrictions hit ACER in 2020 with a 30% loss of income from donations and proposal revenue, and a 90% loss of social connection with volunteers. These same impacts hit 80% of non-profit agencies in Canada, according to Globe and Mail coverage last December.
Under lockdown in March 2020, ACER was funded $25,000 by Arbor Day Foundation under the TD Green Space program, to test its Project Crossroads model in Brampton. Based on 2020 project results, and after dozens of submitted proposals, ACER reported to the AGM that revenue in 2021 is already up 500% over 2020.
- The Canadian Healthy Community Initiative brings $50,100 of new federal funding for a 12‑month project to engage Mississauga residents in climate action tree labs. Knowledge sharing and skills training will prepare for a community fall planting and spring 2022 celebrations.
- Ontario Trillium Foundation grant of $80,100 funds a 6-month pivot to complete digital adaptation to deliver current programs and new resources, including a TreeTrackers digital tree monitoring platform.
- Service Canada funded 18 Canada Summer Jobs internships in Brampton and Mississauga.
To help get matched donations for ACER, donate this June to The Great Canadian Giving Challenge for a $20,000 prize. Every $1* is a chance for you to WIN! and helps ACER to extend its programs where people most need cooling shade. Canada Helps will announce the winner on July 1, 2021 – Canada Day!
- Watch ACER’s 30-minute YouTube of keynotes, 2020 results and 2021 plans here: Click here
- Read ACER’s 2020 Annual Report: Click here
- Check out ACER’s Spring-Summer Newsletter: Click here
Through its volunteers, since 2013 ACER has contributed an inventory of 1726 trees to Mississauga sites. Since 1989, thousands more native trees and ecosystem shrubs have been planted across 13 Conservation Authorities and more than 60 school yards rimming the Golden Horseshoe Area
Established in 1987, ACER is committed to helping communities understand and respond locally to global climate change. ACER envisions healthy, diverse, resilient communities where everyone works together for a better, greener world. ACER inclusively supports people of all ages and backgrounds in their grass-roots initiatives to plant trees by educating participants in measuring, monitoring, and reporting on tree health and growth.